It is not easy in Saudi Arabia if you want to lead the life of an independent woman. The country has no Constitution, neither a parliament nor a written legislation. Conservative theologians decide spontaneously the destiny of an individual based on their interpretation of Holy Quran and their accepted Hadees (Holy Traditions). They represent the Hanabali School of Thought of Islam linked to the most rigid and literal interpretation of Islam known as Wahabism. All institutions religious or otherwise are subservient to the whims and fancies of Saudi Royal Family. All important appointments are made by royal family. This country is a veritable prison if you happen to be a female serving expat; you’re in a virtual hell if you’re a domestic servant. All rules and regulations are just on paper and your rights are the subject of the employer. What happens behind the four walls is known only to the hapless woman and her employer.
Women from the third world go there to escape poverty back home. Of course while it might help them to alleviate their family’s suffering, the sacrifice they have to make is enormous and difficult to imagine. I don’t know how the Saudi Women themselves feel about the situation. However, for an outsider, the society there is too rigid and the autocracy of Indian Khap Panchayats is no match to their strict suffocating environment. Forget the words – rules and regulations.
A woman in Saudi Arabia has to face several restrictions based entirely on gender. She needs a guardian all the times to make any decision of her life regardless of age or marital status. He may be her father, her husband, her uncle, her brother, or even her own son. She can’t study or work or marry without the consent of her guardian. Permission of guardian is necessary even in case of a major medical treatment. The gender segregation is common in all areas of public sphere. Needless to say, a woman can’t drive there.
However, we must appreciate if a good news comes across the dark curtains. Recently, a Saudi Woman Soumayya Jabrati has been appointed the first female Editor of one of the most popular English Dailies of Saudi Arabia – “Saudi Gazette.” Commenting at her elevation she said,”The success will not be complete unless I see my peers who are also Saudi women in the media take other roles where they are the decision makers. There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling. And I’m hoping it will be made into a door. Being the first Saudi woman as newspaper editor is going to be a double responsibility. One’s actions will reflect upon my fellow Saudi women.”
She was serving a deputy editor since 2011. Her predecessor Khaled Almaeena is a well know journalist who was also the editor of ‘Arab News’ the other most popular English newspaper of the Arab World. Khalid speaks fluent Urdu and known for his soft corner for India and Indians. Khalid has now become ‘Editor-at-large’ of Saudi Gazette. In his letter to readers Khalid appreciated her role and announced that Somayya had ‘earned’ the position.
“Today I proudly leave my nominee, a female journalist – Somayya Jabarti – who will take the helm of the paper…She has been associated with me for almost 13 years, and I’ve had the goal almost as long of wanting to see a Saudi woman enter the male-dominated bastion of editors-in-chief. It was not a question of gender but of merit that decided and earned her this opportunity.”
She also has worked with Arab News, a Saudi English newspaper based in Jeddah, as deputy editor.
By Naim Naqvi
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